SPANISH IS CHANGING TO BE MORE INCLUSIVE AND THAT’S OKAY
Language is created and therefore subject to change. Spanish is not the only language that has changed over time. Adaptation in language can be observed over time in English, French, American Sign Language, and almost every other language out there. Language is about communication, therefore it must adapt to the situation, time, and/or person, and it changes every time a variable does. This change can be seen in general grammatical rules such as conjugations which can change the tense of a word or even in meaning in some cases.
Spanish is adapting, changing, evolving. And with change comes unrest. Unrest is often rooted in the lack of understanding not only of the change itself but the reason why it’s happening. So here’s why Spanish is changing — people want the option to feel included in their language. The Spanish language in itself does not discriminate against anyone. Unfortunately, some Spanish speakers can use the language to discriminate, so there is a movement to offer a more inclusive option for those who wish to take it.
The X in Latinx is firmly rooted in historical change. One of the first places where the X was seen was on protest signs. During the 1960s and 1970s in Latino America, feminist protestors would X out words ending in “OS” to visually reject the notion that the default is the masculine. There’s history in the U.S. which, contrary to popular belief, did not begin with white Americans but rather by Latinx people born in the U.S. who wanted to feel represented in their culture. David Bowels, author, and professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley explains it best: “White people did not make-up Latinx. It was queer Latinx people… They are the ones who used the word. Our little subgroup of the community created that. It was created by English-speaking U.S. Latinx people for use in English conversation.”
Whether the X is being used to tackle the patriarchy and machismo or simply being used to promote inclusivity, it is not a threat to the Spanish language but rather a natural response to the cultural changes happening within the Latinx community.
A study conducted by Jennifer L. Prewitt-Freilino and T. Andrew Caswell — The Gendering of Language: A Comparison of Gender Equality in Countries with Gendered, Natural Gender, and Genderless Languages — dives into the effects that gendered language has on its society. The study shows that gendered language can reinforce existing inequalities between men and women which in turn negatively affect women socially, politically, economically, and culturally.
As we are becoming more educated and aware of the inequalities within our culture, the desire for a more inclusive language Spanish is being adapted. We can not appropriately discuss a group of people or a situation if we do not have the words for it. Because of this, the words are being created and it doesn’t make them any less real than the other words already in existence. And because language is adaptable, nothing is being forced upon anyone; instead, this provides the option to be more inclusive and aware. The X in Latinx is a tool of communication and identity. It is there to help have conversations about gender non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals while respecting and honoring who they are. Changing the O or A at the end of Latinx to an X or even an E (which is also an option) is not “ruining” the Spanish Language as much as it is enhancing it.
At the end of the day whether you choose to use the X or the E or just say Latino/Latina is up to you. No one is saying that the O or A need to be discarded or not be used at all. That sentiment is counterproductive to the goal of working the X and E into the language. The whole point is to be inclusive, which means everyone can choose what term they want to use.
Our cultures are all so vibrant and filled with history and richness and our language should reflect that. There is no one way to be Latinx or Latino or Latine or Latina because we are made up of so many different things. Our language is changing to reflect and include the amazing non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals who haven’t felt heard or seen. In the end, this change is about love and we should all support that. As Latinx people we hold family as such a significant part of our lives, so how could it be a bad thing to have new language tools that help us honor our loved ones’ identities and express that love?